Govt doing nothing about checking instigating content on TV, says Supreme Court

STRESSING ON the need to check “instigating” content on television, the Supreme Court Thursday said the government appeared to be “doing nothing about it”.

“The fact of the matter is that there are programmes which have instigating effect and you being the government is doing nothing about it,” Chief Justice of India S A Bobde told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

The bench, also comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, was hearing a plea by Jamiat-Ulema-I-Hind, which alleged that the issue of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation last year – during the onset of the pandemic – was reported in such a manner that it would spread communal hatred.

The CJI also sought to draw a parallel with the restrictions placed on the Internet following the Republic Day violence during the farmers protests.

“There are programmes which instigate or impact a community. Yesterday you shut down the Internet and mobile because of the farmers’ visit to Delhi..,” he observed. “Fair and truthful reporting is normally not a problem. Problem is when it is used to agitate others. It is as important as providing ‘lathis’ to policemen. It is an important preventive part of the law and order situation,” he said. “We are not interested in what the people say on TV… As long as they do not instigate, incite violence, we have no problem with that. We are interested in broadcasts or programmes which have instigation effect and there are situations when it can cause riots, and there can be loss of life, property,” the court said.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre, told the bench that there are effective mechanisms in place to prevent spread of hateful content or news. The problem arises during live, discussion-based programmes, as there cannot be pre-censorship of such programmes, he said.

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